On a recent walk-about Happy Valley with David Brett we made this Dandelion line on a rock in the potential site our our last scene
We had technical problem with our last Devising Session on zoom because we couldn’t open the breakout rooms so couldn’t meet in smaller groups. People are naturally less reluctant to speak in larger groups; its not easy in any event because zoom has this small delay and people occasionally speak over each other as a result. However we managed with zoom as we always do. The devising group have been amazing, patient, imaginative and loyal, and new people joining, which is great. So here are the notes from the Music and Verse delving session and the provocation for the next one. Over the next four devising sessions we will be developing the plots of each our our four stories and discovering how to tie them together in a final scene.
PROVOCATION FOR DEVISING - THE STRUCTURE OF THE PLAY
& DISCOVERING THE PLOT'STAYING HOME'
The title of this session may sound daunting but we have actually reached a very creative stage of developing the play. We are getting down to finding the plot of each of our four stories. 'Staying Home' 'Leaving Home' 'Displaced' and "Coming Home'. All through the devising process I have tried to accommodate all the ideas and find a pattern, look for ideas that recur, maybe in different ways but essentially have the same theme. For example Evacuees, Refugees, places of refuge, have all come up; as have pilgrimages, journeys, life's paths, the landscape paths of Happy Valley themselves, the purposes of journeys to and from Home, community, sanctuary, safety. Home is our subject, our four stories have themes that reflect Home. Now each of those stories need to be defined and crested as scenes; then we will discover the relationship between those stories to form a concluding scene that ties it all together. The scenes we discover over the coming four fortnightly Wednesdays will be explored on the two intervening Mondays with the improvisation group, and we will report back at the Devising Session. Everyone in the devising group is invited to come and observe the improvisations every second Monday so you can give us your feedback. The improvisers will improvise scenes so that the devises don't have to - but they are, of course, welcome too if they wish.
I will start the next devising session talking about possible structures for the whole play, how we might frame and link stories. I will expand on that on Claque's website (click below)
After that The first story we will look at is "Staying Home.' The following sessions we will look at two stories each time.
NOTES ON DEVISING 28TH APRIL MUSIC & VERSE
Becca's, Gilly's and David (our Musical Director's) notes from our Music/Sound Workshop on 28th April.
PRESENT; Amy Church, Scott Kingsnorth, Jill Scott, Claire Edwards and Daniel, Paul Fulton, Kate Sargent, Phil Byrne, Sally Sugg, Gilly Blaydon, Mary Jane Stevens, Joe Mendall, Lucy Edkins, Alison Mackenzie, Sonia and Michael Lawrence, Bernie and Julie Madden, David Brett, Jon Oram, Becca Maher.
There were problems with zoom so it wasn't possible to go into break out rooms as we had planned. David Jinks wasn't able to join us due to those technical issues. We welcomed Amy who had joined the devising for the first time. She said that at her college she had taken part in a devised piece about homelessness.
Song is a good way to tell a story and creating an atmosphere. A song can speak a thousand words. Initially we'll be gathering in the field opposite the church . Not yet decided whether music will be used at that point. What instruments would we like to hear/play? The natural environment such as sticks/rocks/grass make sounds. There will also be other ambient sounds such as dogs barking, people walking/talking.
At the large oak tree the four paths diverge: place for poem “The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost. Invisible siren voices luring audience down the different paths. Bells in trees. There’s a branch of the “screaming tree” that swings by itself for a long time – put bells on that. Rocks as instruments. Use the landscape.Daniel: Is a campanologist. Wondered if we could use whatever bells they had in the church. (Later discovered they have one bell.) David has a set of 8 handbells. Bells could be timers to indicate when a group needs to move on. We could add humming to bell ringing. Humming in caves, echoes. Humming might be safer than singing due to covid. Humming is very atmospheric.
M.J. Dinner gong, or J. Arthur Rank type gong – can be heard over whole area. She has a djembe ,rain sticks and other percussion instruments and would like to sing too.
In Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Brook used long tubes whirled around the head, like bull roarers. Sally has written a poem about a soldier returning home with combat stress. Sonia has also written two poems on the subject of home which she read to us. Poems condense as do songs. Song "Keep the home fires burning". Home sickness, recognition/tribal music. Small drums to beat a pathway. Military style. Phil can play snare drums. David has drums and other percussion.
Involve the Syrian refugees in Tunbridge Wells (T.W Welcomes Refugees). There are Syrian musicians in T.W. They would not need to attend every performance. We could make it clear that singers/musicians would be welcome even if they couldn't attend every performance. We could use a fallen tree as a boat carrying refugees. Alison spoke about a play she saw where the mobile phone was the most important object as the traffickers were going to abandon the migrants at a certain point and they would have to use thir phones to call the coastguard to rescue them. The phone was literally their life line. We could use phones to create sounds.
Bath house could have Regency music, or modern songs arranged in Regency style (“Splish Splash”?). Singing in the bath. Voyeurism, audience creeping up to view. Not making any sound can bring tension.
Contact singers we know who might be interested. David has mentioned this to a couple of singer contacts who are interested. Paul mentioned a friend who is an opera singer.
Familiarity/ recognition is good. But singing songs that are too familiar or obvious might sound a bit too much like busking. Has to be a bit strange and unfamiliar to draw you in. Calling from rock to rock, like a beacon. Street calls. Call and response. We should try one evening with a group, calling across the space to test the acoustics.
A performer whispering a poem into your ear.Songs should be simple: chorus, refrain, repetitive. Each story could have a musical theme which is woven into a larger musical piece at the end.Just as the thread of each story is woven into the final story.Involve the Create Choir if possible.
Use of phones as backing for songs. wireless speakers which could be used to play music or sound at a distance.Could be used to play birdsong in trees. Amplify the sound of shuffling feet, crunching through leaves and twigs. Or an image first seen as something normal changes to something strange.
Image of the Displacement group wearing headphones.
Actors listening to headphones , choreographed dance movement to unheard music. Emphasising they are cut off from their environment. Staying home we don't always notice or appreciate where we live. If Happy Valley is the star of the show maybe we shouldn't use too much technology. We want to enhance the features of Happy Valley and use what we find there. All the stories are really about Staying Home. All drama is about this. People don’t take enough notice of their surroundings.
1) We will continue to make Land Art/sculptures throughout the summer.There will be more dates for workshops that will be opened up to a wider audience.
2) Musicians/singers we could involve. David has a friend who is an opera singer and is happy to take part. Maybe contact TW welcomes Refugees regarding Syrian Band. Do we have any friends/contacts who are musicians/singers. Amy, Julie, MJ, Alison, Jill and Bec are happy to sing (but not all happy to sing solo), Jill can play the recorder and Phil drums.
3) Organise music/sound workshops, looking at how sound/music travels in Happy Valley, in caves near rocks etc.
4) Consider songs that relate to the theme of home.
5) Next Devising Workshop Wednesday 12th May 7.30 p.m. Devising Group will be invited fortnightly to join zoom improvisation sessions from Monday 17th May at 7.30 pm.
Farewell my dear friend
Peter Terson (Patterson) 'Pete' died in the early hours of April 8th aged 89. He had been living with Parkinson's disease for the last few years, stoic and good natured throughout and supported by his wife Shelia, who has been his rock through their 66 year marriage. Shelia had asked me to write an obituary for their local paper The Ross Gazette in Ross on Wye (See below) but I wanted to add some more reflections on his life and my memories of him. i first met Pete in 1985 at a weekend writers retreat in Monkton Wilde, Dorset that I had set up so I could meet writers and enthuse them about the community play genre. Peter Terson, David Cregan, Nick Darke were among them. I have to confess I was daunted by Pete's energy and frankness, he was a heavy cider drinker at the time and would disappear from the conference with Nick and they would come back somewhat paralytic. As a result I was somewhat nervous and it took five years to invite him to write a play for Bradford on Avon "Under the Fish"and Over The Water (1990) . I then collaborated with him in developing two community operas in Southborough "Have you seen this Girl" (1991) and "Twin Oaks" which were also performed in Lambersart and Lille in France with an Anglo French Cast, directed by Mark Dornford May. I then commissioned him for a second large scale promenade play in 1999, "The Sailors Horse" (Minehead and Watchet). Pete was the most diligent in meeting the community' face to face. These plays can take up to two years to develop. Pete not only made flash visits, the more common approach by busy writers committed to other projects at the same time, he would come and live or holiday in the town with Shelia. As a director I never worked harder having to keep up with Peter. In Minehead he wanted to know about Butlins, both as a holiday maker and behind the scenes, so he insisted I organise a week end stay. We followed the day in the life of a Bluecoat, and the holiday maker, We sang Karaoke, joined a quiz team and played crazy golf with a family, He'd given up drink by then thankfully though we sat in the bars in order to meet the punters and drank juices. Peter watched, listened and most particularly picked up the rhythms, accents, turns-of-phrase of local people. He incorporated these experiences and their personal stories into the play..
The play scripts emerged over the weeks, inspired by events of the previous day or some newly discovered research. Odd scenes would arrive in no particular order. Eventually the full script would arrive in the post. Typed on an old Olivetti typewriter with an old ribbon on various lined, plain yellowing paper or opened envelopes pinned and sellotaped together. There were amicable exchanges of ideas to get to a rehearsal draft, I was to learn that Pete didn't consider a script finished till the show was over. He attended many more rehearsals than any writer and sat on the edge, often with a pile of script papers and listen and watch, seldom interfering. One regular thing he did do ,however ,when a community actor came out with a line in his or her own natural framing, because he or she wasn't yet word perfect, Pete would call out something like "that's not it... "that's not what I wrote" followed by "but. it's better, say it like that." He recognised it sat more comfortably with the actors vernacular, and was therefore more truthful..
`I don't believe in the latter years that Peter Terson got the credit he deserved, Age did not weary him nor did his talent diminish. He was undoubtably one of great playwriting talents of his age. In a self written short biography he wrote that the sixties and seventies were his 'glorious days' a period in which he wrote and had produced somewhere in the region of eighty plays for television, radio and the theatre. He went on to say "but I'm not dead yet and just coming up to my peak `~~(confidence and mad optimism is all to the playwright.) that was Peter Terson to the last, until Parkinson disease robbed him of the capacity to write. Peter Terson's plays are social dramas as relevant today as ever they were. It is beholden on the theatre and those who can to resurrect past plays and produce the more recent ones; we still have a lot to learn from him. He should be as honoured as a dramatist equal to Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker, especially as he never abandoned his working class roots.